A Thankless Career
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Feb 01, 2016
I travel a lot, which means I pass through airport
security at least five or six times a month. I’m
overjoyed when I get picked as TSA Pre-check,
and don’t have to take my shoes off. Because of recent
news and my frequent visits through the security
checkpoint, I have come to lack confidence in
I’m sure there are TSA agents that take the mission
of security seriously; others are there just for
a paycheck. It is not unlike every other office in the
country, but in this case it is right in front of the public
eye and it is the difference between a safe flight
and your worst nightmare.
TSA does some good. For instance, agents stopped
twice as many guns at the Norfolk International Airport
checkpoints in 2015 than the two previous years
combined. Last year, 16 firearms were detected. Why
are people trying to sneak guns on board an airplane?
It’s not that firearms are not permitted, but they
certainly can’t be taken in carry-on baggage without
proper precautions. There are rules to bringing a
weapon on a flight. Most weapons can go in checked
bags if unloaded, properly packed and declared to the
airline. If you are interested, you can call your airline
before arriving at the airport to check out their policy.
Earlier this year, a Logan County, W.V., man was
cited on state weapons charges as he was stopped by
TSA officials at the Yeager Airport. The man had a
.38 caliber semi-automatic handgun in his carry-on
baggage. To top it off, it was loaded with five bullets.
The man said he forgot he had the gun in his possession.
Checkpoint X-rays don’t lie; there it was. Seriously,
how do you forget that you have a loaded gun
in the carry-on baggage?
I was recently stopped at security because I had
an unopened bottle of water. I, like the man in West
Virginia, didn’t know it was there. It was only a water
bottle, but it was still a little embarrassing. Having a
handgun, that is a completely different story. It is a
passenger’s responsibility for all contents in their bags.
For all their hard work, and keeping an airport secure,
TSA does some pretty stupid things. Not long
ago, a 10-year-old North Carolina girl received a patdown
after it was discovered she had left a Capri Sun
juice pouch in her bag. TSA agents pulled the youngster
out of line and performed what I thought was a
pretty aggressive pat down.
“I’m a very big proponent of security, and if they
were patting me down, no problem, but this was a
10-year-old girl,” said the child’s father, Kevin Payne.
“The whole system seems to not work the way it
should be working.”
I’ve had a pat down before, in fact, several. I don’t
like it, but at least I understand the necessity of this
protocol. But, all that for a 10-year-old girl with a
Quick to respond, TSA said they followed agency
guidelines, which screening procedures allow for a
pat down of a child under certain circumstances. All
approved procedures were clearly followed by letter
of the law. However, the child’s father filmed the incident
and posted the footage on YouTube. I watched
the film frontwards, backwards, inside and out. The
young lady was clearly mortified and in distress by the
pat down. Looking at the film, I thought it was a little
Why? The footage clearly shows a female agent
calmly frisking the little girl. However, there is something
wrong with seeing a 10-year-old being made to
hold her arms out to her side. What I thought was an
heinous act, was the agent’s efforts to frisk the young
lady’s breasts and other private areas.
As the father rewatched the video, he said that
it “makes me sick to my stomach.” Clearly, this experience
was uncomfortable for the girl, who held a
blank stare on her face through the entire event. Even
though a parent was present through the entire process,
and it was done by a female officer, it was just
This isn’t TSA’s first clash with frisking a child. A
TSA agent in New Orleans patted down a 6-year-old
girl in 2011. Things were supposed to change after
that, and in fact, changes were announced last year
that screening child passengers would change.
Clearly, someone in North Carolina didn’t get the
Arina P Habich
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Security Today.